Hey, It’s OK If You Don’t Like to Read

Emily Martin

Contributing Editor

Emily has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, MS, and she has an MFA in Creative Writing from GCSU in Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O’Connor. She spends her free time reading, watching horror movies and musicals, cuddling cats, Instagramming pictures of cats, and blogging/podcasting about books with the ladies over at #BookSquadGoals (www.booksquadgoals.com). She can be reached at emily.ecm@gmail.com.

School is back in session, which means parents and teachers will soon be encouraging a new generation of kids to read books and love doing it (or else). But in this modern world with so many different options available for education and entertainment, is reading the only way? And if kids who hate reading grow into adults who still hate reading, are they bad people? If you’re one of those people who has always believed that everyone should learn to love reading, read on. It might be time to reconsider.

What’s your initial reaction one someone tells you they don’t like to read? Shock? Horror? Disgust? If you’re here at Book Riot, then you’re probably someone who loves books. In fact, books might be a huge part of your identity. It might be difficult to imagine life without escaping into the pages of books.

I get it. I have always been a book kid. When my parents let me choose between getting new toys or new books, I got the books. When other kids were outside playing, I was reading. And don’t even get me started on the Scholastic Book Fair. Reading is my life. I studied English in college because it meant my textbooks were just books. When I got out of school, I started writing for Book Riot because it gave me an excuse to read more books and claim it was work. I love reading. And yet.

Reading Doesn’t Make You A Good Person (I Know, I Was Disappointed Too!)

Us book people have a tendency to assume reading is “good,” which means people who don’t do it are “bad.” There’s this weird virtue signaling that goes along with reading, as if readers are inherently smarter, more empathetic, more creative, and just better than people who don’t like to read.

As much as I’d like to say yes, I am a better person because I read, that’s just not true. If only it were that easy to be a good person! I read a lot more than some other people, but that’s because I choose reading over other activities. I’ll read instead of watching a movie or playing video games. Sometimes I’ll choose reading over quality time with friends and family. Reading is a great way to spend your time, but it’s not the only valuable way to spend your time. Movies, TV, video games, and quality time with loved ones are all worthwhile things to spend time doing.

Yes, of course there are lots of benefits to reading. Reading is a way to exercise your brain. It can help you widen your vocabulary and improve your overall language skills. It relieves stress and anxiety. We also learn empathy through reading about the stories of others. And most importantly, for many people reading can be fun.

But reading isn’t fun for everyone, and that’s okay.

There Are Other Hobbies Out There, After All!

There are plenty of other ways to get the benefits of reading from other activities. You can also get mental stimulation through meditation, playing chess, practicing crossword puzzles, and, yes, even playing video games. Video games can be good for you! You heard it here!

Watching TV and movies also comes with many unexpected benefits. In a study conducted by  UCL’s Department of Experimental Psychology and Vue entertainment, researchers found that watching movies has a significant impact on brain function, productivity, and creativity. Movies and television are also an excellent way to connect with other people. Some people even use film as a form of therapy.

woman watching television

If you’re looking for ways to relieve stress and anxiety, there are plenty of other activities that can help with that as well. Physical activity or exercise is a big one. Like reading, exercise also can improve brain function. Additionally, because reading is generally a sedentary activity, there are tons of benefits you can get from physical activity that you simply can’t get from reading — unless you’re listening to an audiobook while exercising, which I actually highly recommend! Some benefits of exercise that go beyond what you get from reading? Improved immune system, better cardiovascular health, relief from joint pain and stiffness, and so much more.

All of this is to say there are plenty of ways to do something that’s “good for you.” Reading is one of those things, but it might not even be the best option for you personally. And when you only have so many hours in every day, you should choose to do the activities that are good for you and make you feel happy.

Telling Someone They Should Love Reading Will Just Make Them Hate It More

As someone who loves to read, I’ve learned that there’s no use in trying to convince someone else to spend more time reading. The more you tell someone they should love reading, the more they’re going to hate it. People are stubborn like that.

Let’s make this into a food analogy. Think back to when you were a kid and you were forced to eat your vegetables. When you were told you had to eat all your broccoli, did that make you love broccoli more? Probably not. You probably grew to despise broccoli and everything it stood for.

Maybe when you were older, someone made you a delicious roasted broccoli dish, and you tasted it and realized, yes, now you do love broccoli. And then you were sad you missed out on so many years of roasted broccoli because you thought the only broccoli out there was tasteless boiled broccoli. Or maybe you tasted that dish and realized, no, broccoli is still the worst food in the world. You would be wrong, but that wouldn’t make you a bad person.

Did I lose you? Sorry, I just really love broccoli.

Okay, let’s bring it back to reading then. If schools and parents want kids to read, that’s totally valid. Reading is a wonderful educational tool. But if you want kids to love reading, you really can’t force it. You have to find ways to make reading fun and understand that there are also totally valid reasons why some people — both kids and adults — don’t find pleasure in reading.

In some cases, you can address those issues. If it’s a case of the reading material being boring, find better material! Not everyone loves novels. Try comic books to see if that holds your interest. Sometimes anxiety can make it difficult to focus on words on a page. If so, try listening to an audiobook while cleaning, cooking, or exercising. If these kinds of tricks don’t work, and you still hate reading, there are a wide variety of other activities that might be a better way to spend your time.

And, again, that’s okay.

If Book People Are Your People, That’s OK Too

So yes, it’s totally okay to not love reading. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Now, you might still have to read for school or to pass tests. But if you don’t want to read for pleasure, fine!

If you’re a book person and you’re reading this, you might be thinking, “But I like to hang out with other people who love to read.” Hey, that’s OK too. Human beings generally like to surround themselves with people who have similar interests. So if you don’t feel like you have much in common with people who don’t read, that makes sense. You don’t have to hang out with that person who doesn’t want to read. But you’re also not allowed to judge them.